Past Weekly Shabbat Message
(Torah Portion Bo) Answers to Some Whys

Has it ever bothered you, why the Jews deserved to suffer so many years of slavery in Egypt?
The Torah relates that when G-d told our forefather Avraham that his children would inherit the Land of Israel, he asked G-d for a sign of confirmation. Immediately G-d informed Avraham that his descendants would be enslaved for many years after which they would emerge as a nation.

The Kli Yakar asks: We know that children do not suffer for the misdeeds of their parents, yet it seems that Avrahamís descendants suffered, as a punishment for Avraham questioning G-dís promise?

Commentators explain that although Avraham overstepped his bounds, he did not doubt G-dís promise; rather he was asking in which attribute his descendants would have to excel to merit inheriting the special destiny in store for them. He also asked if they would indeed be up to the task.

G-d responded to Avraham that his descendants would merit by going through slavery in a land which is not theirs, and that they would eventually emerge.

How did slavery shape them to become worthy of inheriting their great future?

An answer offered is, that the extreme difficulties associated with the physical dreadful slavery of the Egyptian taskmasters prepared and primed the Jews to eagerly accept on themselves the pleasant and satisfying though rigid responsibilities of becoming G-dís chosen nation and to be responsible to uphold His standards of moral and ethical conduct and performing and guarding His commands and welcome G-dís loving embrace.

Another answer offered is that being totally dominated while they were enslaved, eliminated any vestige of pride, conceit and arrogance from the Jews. This process was a necessary prerequisite for them to humbly accept G-dís authority and mandate.

When G-d foretold the destiny of the Jews to Avraham, he told him that they would emerge with great wealth. Aside from the monetary wealth which they acquired on the way out of Egypt, this promise included the Torah, the ultimate spiritual and eternal treasure, which they received from G-d at Mount Sinai shortly after they were freed.

The great commentator, Rashba, explains that G-d specifically had the entire family of Israel contained in the sealed borders of Egypt, where no one could flee. This was because G-dís ultimate goal was to gather the entire Jewish nation at Mount Sinai for them to witness His Revelation and accept and receive the Torah in unison.

Had the Jews been scattered throughout the various inhabited countries of the world, it would have been difficult to convince them to gather together when the time came for them to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. They would have had all sorts of excuses, such as business commitments, vacations, illness, and difficulty traveling with infants and children. Perhaps people would have been content and comfortable with their living conditions and would not have wanted to travel to the barren Sinai desert to receive the Torah law which would have inevitably impinged on their lifestyles.

The Egyptian experience enabled the entire nation to be present to accept the Torah in unison. Because of the national acceptance of the Torah by the entire unit of the Jewish people, all ensuing generations became bound by their ancestorsí commitment.

Why did this intense slavery have to go on for so long?

In truth the Jews held their own destiny in their hands. G-d was always waiting for the Jews to call out to Him for help, and had they turned to G-d earlier, their redemption would have come at once. As the Torah relates, when the Jews cried out to G-d for help, He immediately summoned and dispatched Moshe to lead them out of Egypt, and the course of their redemption began, in spite of the fact that it was 190 years before the date G-d had originally set for the Exodus.

Prayer is submitting to and humbly asking the Almighty for assistance, and He listens and responds accordingly.

Wishing you a most uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks